Volume 21, Issue 8 - February 24, 2023

Billions in opioid settlement funding now available to public officials for various types of projects
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.

For years, state governments affected by the opioid epidemic were locked in intense litigation with pharmaceutical companies, some of which are the most powerful corporations in the world. The years of legal battles are now paying off and approximately $54 billion in settlement money is being distributed to state and local governments across the country. Additionally, settlements allocated to tribal communities from three of the largest pharmaceutical distributors will add another $440 million in funding for health services and other types of projects. 

The state of Texas will receive an anticipated $1.6 billion in opioid settlement funds. The money will come in installments over many years. To ensure fair distribution, the state has created an Opioid Abatement Fund Council that will operate out of the Texas Comptroller’s office. The council will oversee a newly created repository of revenue. As of 2022, Texas had already received more than $130 million and another $2.6 million in revenue owed during 2022 is yet to reach Texas. The funding can be used in numerous ways. 

The state of New York has created a State Opioid Settlement Fund and billions in settlement payments will also extend over numerous years. During those years, the state’s newly created Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board will recommend how those funds are spent. Most states have established similar types of programs to recommend how the spending is allocated.

Opioid settlement funds are to be spent on projects that provide benefits to a continuum of care. However, that general guidance will allow revenue eligibility for numerous types of projects. It can be used to support development of new facilities, improvement of operations related to healthcare, recovery services, medication-assisted treatments in prisons, transitional housing needs and treatment centers. Additionally, New York’s opioid settlement funds will be used to develop local and regional planning for transportation solutions to improve rural access to critical health services. Approximately $113 million will flow to New York municipalities this year. At the state level, in 2023, New York will receive $242 million and $128 million has been earmarked for transportation initiatives. 

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Garland ISD calls for $1.2B bond election

The Garland ISD (GISD) Board of Trustees has approved calling for a bond election on May 6. If passed, the bond would modernize aging facilities, enhance student safety and provide additional infrastructure upgrades for GISD students.

The bond proposal includes three propositions totaling $1.2 billion. Proposition A allocates $1.1 billion for safety and security upgrades including forced-entry-resistant film and safety perimeter fencing at all campuses. The proposition also includes the expansion of the Gilbreath-Reed Career & Technology Center, a new Memorial Pathway Academy-Student Services Center, a Network Operations Center, a transportation center, four replacement elementary campuses and an Agricultural Sciences facility.  

Sports and athletics projects include athletic field houses for each high school, new turf baseball and softball fields for each high school and middle school boys and girls locker room renovations.  

Proposition B provides $135 million for Multi-Program Activity Centers on all high school campuses. These centers will be utilized by marching bands, drill teams, cheerleaders, special education students and athletic teams during periods of extreme weather.  

Proposition C designates $40.6 million for a refresh of technology device for students and staff. 

The average age of GISD buildings is 44 years old, and an independent assessment conducted by school facilities experts found that the district has over $3 billion in necessary repairs and upgrades.  

(Photo: B. H. Freeman Elementary School. Courtesy of Garland ISD.)

University of Houston planning $52M school for public affairs

The University of Houston System’s main campus is going to be the future home of the Hobby School of Public Affairs. The building will be approximately 60,000 square feet, but the Hobby School of Public Affairs is pursuing donor funding to increase the building size by an additional 20,000 square feet. The total project cost is $52 million.  

The facility will include a lecture hall, multiple classrooms, labs and meeting spaces to support learning and discovery. Also planned are open and private spaces for faculty, staff and students to interact and accomplish high-concentration work.  

The University of Houston has a campus electrical, steam and chilled water plant and a domestic water loop. The chosen architect/engineer will determine whether to tie into campus utilities or use local utility providers.  

The university is in the process of hiring an architect for the project and a solicitation will be published soon for construction services. A mandatory pre-submittal meeting will be held on Feb. 27 for the architect position with a due date for bids on March 13.  

Other projects on the drawing board for the university include an innovation hub to house the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, the Energy Transition Institute and a research wet lab. 

(Photo: Courtesy of the University of Houston.)

Saluting Texas Lone Stars

Tim O'Krongley

Deputy Aviation Director

San Antonio International Airport

Public career highlights and education: I have been involved in the Aviation Industry since High School when I obtained my Pilot’s License. In November of 2022, I was elected to the Airport Council International World Safety and Technical Committee. I will represent the San Antonio Airport System and US Airports to provide guidance and expertise that strengthens airport safety initiatives globally.

  • Master of Aeronautical Studies, Bachelor of Science – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
  • Accredited Airport Executive (A.A.E.).
  • International Airport Executive (IAP).
  • International Aerodrome Certified Employee (IACE).

What I like best about my public service is: Public Service allows me to serve my hometown and provide the best customer experience for our users.


The best advice I’ve received is: Do the right thing always, especially when no one is watching! While it is a simple statement, I am a sixth generation Texas rancher – I grew up with parents and grandparents that believed a person’s faith, word and integrity were the building blocks for life.

People might be interested to know that: My wife, older son and I are pilots, and our younger son is in the final stages of obtaining his license. We own a small plane and like to spend time on the weekends visiting other local towns. 

One thing I wished more people knew about the city of San Antonio is: The amazing people that work for the city and their genuine desire to serve our customers. Since the Airport is the gateway to the city, our employees take a tremendous amount of pride to ensure every customer’s experience is to the level of service they deserve.

Godley ISD voters to see $889M proposal on ballot

Godley ISD will ask voters on May 6 to approve a single proposition totaling $889 million. The proposal will provide classrooms and facilities for more than 5,000 students expected to enroll in GISD schools in the next 8-10 years. The bond will allow the district to build three elementary schools that will each accommodate 740 students. A second middle school will be added to enroll 1,200 students. Renovations and expansion will double the size of Godley Middle School, the structure of Godley High School will grow and renovations will take place at RB Godley Elementary School and Legacy Elementary School.  

A Black Box Theater and Performing Arts Center will be built along with an Agricultural Center. Fine arts equipment will be added, and locker rooms will provide storage space for students taking agriculture and tennis.  

Additional projects include: 

  • Districtwide safety and security upgrades. 
  • Districtwide technology infrastructure. 
  • Land purchases. 
  • Traffic study. 
  • Additional buses and replacement buses. 
  • Transportation facility. 
  • Wastewater treatment plant. 
  • Additional parking. 


The bond will not impact the district’s property tax rate. 

(Photo: Rendering of elementary school No. 3. Courtesy of Godley ISD.) 

SPI welcomes Gary Bertagnolli to consulting team 

Gary Bertagnolli joined the Strategic Partnerships Team with more than 30 years of technology expertise. His public sector career has primarily been at the local levels of government, but he also gained technology experience while working in the commercial sector.  

Most recently, Gary served for 14 years as Director of Information Technology for the Town of Flower Mound. In that role, he implemented a cloud-based remote data center, modernized network security and implemented numerous new programs. 

Before his service in Flower Mound, Gary honed his technical and business acumen by navigating complex IT environments at several large firms. He has spearheaded cyber security transformations, implemented data infrastructure migrations, improved customer satisfaction, and assisted in corporate relocations and acquisitions during his career. Gary is also experienced in procurement, employee onboarding and retention, vendor relations, hardware/software migration, cybersecurity, disaster recovery, IP communications and IP camera surveillance systems.

His ability to stay ahead of the latest technological trends, coupled with his strong leadership and communication skills, makes him a valued asset to SPI consultants, researchers and clients.

Dallas Museum of Art launches campus overhaul design competition

The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) has launched a two-stage global competition to find architect-led multidisciplinary design teams to lead the $150 million – $175 million expansion and redesign project. The goal is to enable the Texas institution to set the standard for 21st-century museums. 

Museum leadership envisions additions that would yield flexible gallery spaces, a reorganization of the DMA’s circulation and entrances and a “holistic reapportioning of internal space”. They would like to add an auditorium, event spaces, staff facilities, dining and retail spaces. 

The first stage of the competition will involve a presentation. Competitors will be required to show their overall approach and experience. At a minimum, teams must include a lead design architect, landscape architect, exhibition designer and engineers. 

Five teams will be selected in the spring to move into the second phase. They will engage with the museum and prepare concept designs that will be displayed at a public exhibition during the summer. Each finalist will receive a $50,000 honorarium for their concepts along with up to $10,000 for expenses. 

Funding for this project is set to launch late this year. The deadline to enter the competition is March 15. 

(Photo: Dallas Museum of Art. Courtesy of the Texas State Historical Association.)

Taylor Gully recommended for $28M drainage project

Harris County Flood Control District officials are recommending an approximately $28.2 million drainage project aimed at mitigating flooding around Taylor Gully—a channel in northeast Kingwood credited with intensifying flooding on two occasions in 2019.


Improvements include a concrete-lined, low-flow channel within the existing channel to expand conveyance from 350 feet downstream of Creek Manor Drive to 1,500 feet downstream of Mills Branch Drive. Construction of an estimated 413-acre-foot detention basin on the northern portion of the site also would occur. The project is estimated to remove approximately 116 acres—including 276 structures and 8 miles of roadways—from the 100-year flood plain. 

Once preliminary engineering is completed, officials will begin acquiring rights-of-way. The Taylor Gully channel flows west to east, bordering Montgomery County in the northwest and running eastward toward Mills Branch and Caney Creek in Harris County. 

Willow Park council discusses possible new police station, water treatment plant

The Willow Park City Council recently discussed another possible future home for the city’s police department and has developed plans for the construction of a new water treatment plant and pipeline. For the police station, the city has no plans, designs or conceptual drawings but has voted to form a committee to investigate the creation of a stand-alone police station. 

The police department currently shares the Public Services Building with the fire department, but Parker County Emergency Services District 1 (ESD1) may purchase the building and make it solely a fire station. If that happens, the police department will have to find a new home. 

The city also continues with plans for the water treatment plant. The plans and specs have been reviewed by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The TCEQ approved the documents but changes needed to be made for the TWDB which have been addressed and resubmitted. 

The goal is to bid on the project within 45 days. The solicitation will be posted for five weeks and a construction contract could be issued within 60 days of the bid opening. Construction is expected to last 365 days. 

City of Desoto approves Nance Farm Master Plan

The DeSoto City Council has approved the Nance Farm Master Plan. Construction is estimated to cost $6 million, and that amount is to be refined as the design process progresses. The historic restoration is eligible to use Hotel Occupant Tax proceeds which are anticipated to be most of the funding.


The Nance Farm Master Plan, as it is today, was conceived with a goal to convert the farm into a high-value community asset. The city combined efforts with the DeSoto Arts Commission to reimagine the property, and public feedback directly helped shape the repurposing of the historic site. 

The historical farmhouse, located on Greenbrook Drive, is a landmark of the city and is one of the last remaining examples of early Anglo-American settlement in the DeSoto community. 

The next step will be to put out a request for proposals for design services. The earliest the project is expected to be completed is 2025. 

(Photo: Historic Nance Farm. Courtesy of the city of DeSoto.)

Westbrook appointed president of SFA 

Dr. Steve Westbrook officially became the new president of Stephen F. Austin (SFA) State University on Feb. 20. Westbrook has achieved many accomplishments during his 40-year career at SFA – including serving as vice president of university affairs, acting president and interim president.

Westbrook was interim president after Dr. Scott Gordon stepped down from the position in April of 2022. Westbrook will serve for a short term as the official president of SFA. He plans to retire on May 31.

Reyes selected as San Marcos city manager

The San Marcos City Council has named Stephanie Reyes as the next city manager. Reyes is a San Marcos native who has been serving as interim city manager for the past year after the retirement of Bert Lumbreras. She begins her official role on February 22. 


Reyes has served the city of San Marcos in various capacities over the past 22 years. She was named assistant city manager in December 2019. Before taking on that role, she served as chief of staff, assistant director of Human Resources and assistant to the city manager. 

Texas ranks second in job layoffs under WARN Act

Texas earned a second place ranking with 4,625 total layoffs in 2023, according to CivMetrics, a nonprofit journalism organization. The organization monitors Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notifications put out by employers that are planning to lay off employees.  

The WARN Act requires companies with 100 or more employees to give 60-day notice when performing layoffs. Some states do not disclose WARN notices to the public, and CivMetrics' database and information compilation reflect that. The WARN Act notices are posted with the U.S. Department of Labor Resources. 

California leads the rankings with 11,331 layoffs so far in 2023. Washington ranks third with 4,082, New Jersey fourth with 3,154, and Pennsylvania fifth with 1,997. 

In 2022, CivMetric kept the rankings the same with California ranked first with 32,881 total layoffs and Texas with 11,712 layoffs.  

CivMetric’s city rankings list Austin at number five with 1,255 layoffs so far in 2023. The city of Seattle leads in the rankings with 2,320 layoffs.  

The Texas Workforce Commission provides lists of Texas plant closures and layoff notices issued under the WARN Act between the years 2020 through 2023. 

Malik appointed to city manager of Leander

Randall Malik will join the city of Leander as its new economic development director. Malik was appointed to the position by the Leander City Council on Feb. 16.

Recently serving as assistant director of economic development for the city of Cedar Park, Malik has 13 consecutive years of experience in economic development. His prior experience also includes serving as executive director for the city of Rosenberg. Malik’s predecessor was Cameron Goodman, who now serves as director of economic development for the city of Georgetown. 

Eldredge selected as CFBISD superintendent

The Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD (CFBISD) Board of Trustees has named Wendy Eldredge as the finalist to become the next superintendent. After a finalist is named, state law requires a 21-day waiting period before they can be officially hired as superintendent. Eldredge has served as Crandall ISD's superintendent since 2019 and has worked in education for more than 30 years. 

Before her leadership role at Crandall ISD, Eldredge served as assistant superintendent of safety & operations at Garland ISD, and as area director of the South Garland K-12 feeder pattern, encompassing 8,200 students at 10 campuses.   

La Grange selects new city manager

La Grange City Council voted on Feb. 13 to hire Fred Franklin Bell as the next La Grange city manager. Bell most recently served as assistant city manager for San Benito, a city of 24,250 in the Rio Grande Valley.

His experience includes an extensive background in law enforcement. He previously served as police chief in Arcola, a city south of Houston. Bell replaces former City Manager Shawn Raborn, who retired at the end of September.  

Woodlands revisits study of new performing arts center

After a pause, The Woodlands Township is once again reviewing the potential for a performing arts center. The project was first announced in 2019 as an exploration into a $71 million, 100,000-square-foot new facility near the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Plans included a 1,500-seat theater; a 200- to 400-seat multi-purpose venue; spaces for rehearsal, classrooms and a public gallery; and outdoor reception space. The project was postponed due to the COVID pandemic.


On Feb. 16, the township reintroduced the project as the committee’s biggest priority. However, no action can be taken until it is brought back to a township meeting. Other priorities include a village shopping center and plans for the former GE building.

(Photo: Courtesy of The Woodlands Township.)

City of Irving approves EV charging needs assessment

The Irving City Council on Feb. 9, approved an electric vehicle (EV) charging needs assessment. The assessment will provide data-driven insight to build a charging infrastructure strategy based on current and future EV driver needs, including within disadvantaged communities. The City Council’s Transportation and Natural Resources Committee will use this data to develop a comprehensive infrastructure plan. Once completed, the plan can help Irving apply for future federal and state grants, including the Discretionary Grant Program for Charging and Fueling Infrastructure, which allocates $1.25 billion to community charging under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).


The infrastructure plan will be compiled by analyzing disparate data sources, such as local mobility, demographic, commercial and site-specific data, to provide detailed options for key EV infrastructure challenges, including expected EV adoption, optimal charger quantity and locations, the right mix of charging infrastructure and anticipated energy requirements from the grid. One of the plan's goals is to help identify optimal charger locations and charging speeds in disadvantaged communities.


Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from Feb. 17 through Feb. 23:

State Commission On Judicial Conduct

Cliff Harbin - Montgomery

Public Safety Commission

Larry Long - Dallas

Board Of Pardons And Paroles

Elodia Brito - Amarillo (reappointed)

Brian Long - Kilgore (reappointed)

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